From Chicken Soup for the Latino Soul

The Hurricanes

I knew some English when, at the age of eighteen, I came from Cuba to the United States. My father had a friend from Barbados who taught my sister and me the basics of the English language while we were still living in Cuba, but we still needed a lot of conversational practice.

My first job was working in the tomato fields in Homestead, Florida, and there were a lot of Hispanics, so not much English was spoken. After several months, I started working at the University of Miami School of Medicine as an office clerk, and there I had to speak English very frequently.

During my first week, one of the supervisors went out to lunch and left me in charge of the phones in the reception office. A lady called asking for the “schedule of the hurricanes,” and I immediately told her to call the Weather Bureau, since this was the Admissions Office for Medical Education and she was obviously mistaken. The lady, very upset with me, hung up the phone, saying (among other choice words), “You think you are funny, eh? Damn Cuban!”

When Mrs. Romano came back, I explained what had happened and offered my apologies for any wrongdoing, but I could not understand why the lady got so upset with me—and insulted my Cuban heritage!—when I was truly trying to help her. As I told the story, Mrs. Romano was choking with laughter. I was even more puzzled then.

After a while, she explained to me that the University of Miami had a football team called “Hurricanes” and that “the schedule of the Hurricanes” the lady was inquiring about was the schedule of the season games of the team. Then I started laughing along with Mrs. Romano. I told her I was glad to know that the University of Florida also has a team called the Alligators, so I wouldn’t direct callers to the Everglades National Park!

Xiomara J. Pages

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